Upstate New York has a vole problem. Voles are an evil mix of mole and mouse that live for the sheer pleasure of dying under your floor boards and stinking up your house. I spent many a happy hour as a child following my father around the house trying to sniff out where that latest vole martyr had died specifically to cause turmoil in our house. Since the voles loved our house, we also had feline visitors. They kept to themselves mostly, feasting on voles and snakes in the yard, and we let them prowl hoping the voles would end up in their stomachs rather than in our walls.
There was, however, one porch cat who wanted a closer relationship. This black cat wanted to live in the house, and every time the porch door opened he would run inside and lead us on a merry chase. It became tradition that when one of us caught the cat and tossed him unceremoniously out the door we would shout, “Elvis has left the building!” So the cat came to be known as Elvis. This went on for a while, and we grew quite fond of Elvis.
One day I got a call. The house had begun to smell, and my mother didn’t know what to do. Really I’m sure she knew the only thing to do was sniff until you found the decaying culprit, but she wanted sympathy. I told her to get to it and find the vole.
Soon I received another call. The smell was coming from the worst place possible: under the stairs behind the wagon in the basement. Yes, I do mean a full sized wagon meant to be drawn by a horse, and no, I have never been able to figure out how it got in there or how the hell we’re ever going to get it out.
Two minutes after my mother hung up, she called back. Elvis was dead. Now please understand that my mother was an archeologist with a specialty in animal bones. But this dead animal had skin and mushy bits left on it, and was therefore unacceptable to her. She couldn’t bring herself to don rubber gloves and carry dead Elvis away. So she decided to get a shovel and carry the cat outside on that.
Seconds later my phone rang again. “It fell off the shovel!!!” she screamed. The poor maggoty cat had tumbled off the shovel and fallen with a splat to the floor. I tried to calm her down and told her to find a box for poor Elvis. She found an old cardboard suitcase in a corner of the basement and rolled Elvis in.
Again my phone rang . The bottom had fallen out of the suitcase and Elvis had again gone splat on the floor. It seemed the cat’s determination to stay in the house lasted beyond death. Finally, Mom placed Elvis back in the suitcase, wrapped it in a plastic bag, and carried it outside. She went in to get the ill fated shovel Elvis had fallen from and set about digging a grave. But it was winter in Upstate New York, and permafrost had set it. The ground was too hard to shovel. My mother called again on the verge of tears. She could not see a way to get rid of the cat. What we needed was someone strong enough to dig through the frozen earth or better yet, someone with a really big backhoe.
Luckily, we live next door to a volunteer fire department populated by burly men, most of whom are farmers of some sort. We decided that the best course of action would be to leave Elvis in the suitcase wrapped in the garbage bag outside their door. Surely one of those manly men would take pity on a poor dead cat and give it a proper burial. My mother left the suitcase beside the door and hoped that Elvis would finally be at peace. It snowed that night, and in the morning there was no sign of Elvis’s cardboard suitcase coffin. It wasn’t until months later when the snow finally thawed that we realized that Elvis was still there next to the fire department door. We were too disgusted to go and reclaim the cat. So we let it sit. One day that summer the suitcase finally disappeared. Elvis had left for good. I’m sure he’s in a better place now with lots of voles to eat. I only wonder who opened the suitcase.
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